The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review

Psycho Beach Party
By Jerry Weinstein

But underneath the makeup – even a tough chick’s gotta be a lady
Psycho Beach Party Cast
Psycho Beach Party Cast
The current revival of Charles Busch’s Psycho Beach Party gives me cause to consider that oxymoron -- "Dinner Theater." Presented at Dillions Restaurant and Lounge in midtown, the collision of fried foods and kitsch entertainment would seem to be a marriage made in Massachusetts, but in reality, what is served up is Camp without commitment.

The fault lies not in the text. Writing for the stage since the mid 1970’s, Charles Busch was never simply an underground playwright, he’s always been something of an impresario. In the last decade he’s taken his sensibility uptown with the off-Broadway success of Shanghai Moon, the Tony-nominated Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and the book to the Boy George musical Taboo.

While the film adaptation of his play Psycho Beach Party was well-received, it did take some liberties with the original script with its addition of a serial killer subplot. When director Mark Cannistraro concluded that it was time to reexamine this hoot which first appeared in 1987 he decided to be faithful to the original text.

Psycho Beach Party, which sends up Gidget and Three Faces of Eve, with a few Hitchcockian twists for good measure, demonstrates just how unintentionally difficult is it to make farce sing.

As the play’s lead Michael Conte (Chicklet/Ann Bowman) -- who bears a striking resemblance to Mary Woronov of Eating Raoul fame -- is game to fill the ample pumps of Busch. Rounding out the ensemble is a cast of newcomers. To quote from Susan Sontag’s definition of Camp – "Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a lamp; not a woman, but a woman." The problem here is that much of the young cast is not in on the joke.

Newcomers Eli Eagle (Star Cat) and Hawaiian transplant Joel Halpern (Kanaka) possess a natural charisma, but it seems that they are in a different play than Chicklet and Mrs. Forrest (a man-eating Jacquelyn Poplar who clearly gets it). Cynthia Pierce’s take on Marilyn Monroe (Bettina Barnes) pales in comparison to the explosive rage and bombastic sexuality that Carla Gugino channeled in After the Fall.

While Frankie and Annette beach movies are forty years out of date and the gay icondom of Joan Crawford is fast becoming a Stonewall trivia question, the play itself remains ribald and subversive. What it demands is a je ne sais quoi, a gay sensibility, to bring the words alive.

Psycho Beach Party
Written by Charles Busch
Directed by Mark Cannistraro
Cast: Michael Conte (Chicklet/Ann Bowman); Joel Halpern (Kanaka); Eli Eagle (Star Cat); Jacquelyn Poplar (Mrs. Forrest); Vincent Briguccia (Provoloney); Jennifer Hanson (Dee-Dee); Brian Lukas (Yo-Yo); Cynthia Pierce (Bettina Barnes); Ramsay Saunders (Marvel Ann); Jennifer Vaillancourt (Berdine); Alden Ford (Nicky).
Dance Choreography by Vincent Briguccia
Running time: 90 minutes without intermission
The Cabaret Theater at Dillons Restaurant and Lounge, 245 West 54th St. 212-868-4444
10/02/04 to 11/19/04.
Sat at 8pm; Sun at 7pm; after 11/05, Fridays at 10:30. Tickets, $25-- $10 food/drink minimum.
Ticket prices: $25.00 with a $10 food/drink minimum
Reviewed by Jerry Weinstein based on October 16th, 8pm performance
Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from